ARC REVIEW: Where The Lost Wander – by Amy Harmon

Title: Where The Lost Wander
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: April 28th 2020
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: February 22nd 2020
Pages: 348

“That’s what hope feels like: the best air you’ve ever breathed after the worst fall you’ve ever taken. It hurts.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I think that most people will know by now that I’m a huge fan of Amy Harmon‘s work and I’ve been eagerly anticipating her newest title Where The Lost Wander ever since I first heard about it. I was absolutely stoked when I was given the chance to read this story early, and it was without doubt another excellent story. While not my absolute favorite title to date, this is still a beautifully written story that is most definitely able to provoke strong emotions. Without doubt of the same high quality I’ve come to expect of Amy Harmon‘s books!

There is a lot to love in Where The Lost Wander. First up is the historical setting in 19th century United States. Not only is this historical setting wonderfully and exhaustively described, but these same descriptions really made the setting come alive and made it feel as if you were right back in the 19th century. Both the social conflicts, the Native Americans and their culture as well as the racism and struggles are realistically described and added a lot of dept to the story. I personally loved getting a little more insight in the daily life of Native Americans from that era and John was without doubt the perfect character to show us both ‘worlds’.

The plot itself is simply intriguing. The whole ‘looking for a better life in California’ and braving a 1000+ mile trip to get there with only a wagon and some oxes and mules is most definitely not something we could imagine ourselves doing today… It’s a long road filled with dangers, sickness and hardship, but also hope and the promise of a new life and new possibilities for those who reach their final destination. The journey of this particular cast of characters is again thoroughly and realistically described, without leaving out the blunt and sometimes heartbreaking moments along the way. Likewise, the Native American angle and what happened to Naomi are used to give us more insight in both cultures, with the help of John’s character as a tentative connection between both.

Both the writing and the development of the characters are simply wonderful, but that is what I’ve come to expect of anything Amy Harmon writes to be honest. There is a reason she is one of my absolute favorite authors! There are quite a few characters in Where The Lost Wander, but the main focus is on both Naomi and John. The story is told with the help of a dual POV structure, alternating between Naomi and John to help us show both sides especially when they are not together. It is extremely easy to warm up to and grow to love both characters, root for them and keep fingers and toes crossed for a happy ending… And yes, this includes a lot of both heartwarming and hearbreaking moments along the way.

I think the only thing that nagged me a bit was the slow pace. Where The Lost Wander is considerably slow going and at times it was just too slow for me… Although with a story that is mostly focused on the characters, this slower pace shouldn’t come as a total surprise. In short, while this wasn’t my absolute favorite Amy Harmon, I might just have set my expectations too high to begin with. Where The Lost Wander is still an excellent read and if you love slower and character-driven historical fiction with a wonderful cast of characters, a love story and a social conflict angle, you will find yourself falling hopelessly in love with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Lost Orphan (The Foundling) – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Lost Orphan
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: March 31st 2020
Pages: 352

“It was the greatest difference between us. To her, money was a pool to drink deeply from. Me, I was parched.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and MIRA in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess that I was in the minority last year and somehow I wasn’t that big of a fan of  Stacey Halls‘ debut The Familiars despite being intrigued the premise. After hearing a lot of positive things about her second book The Foundling (or The Lost Orphan), I just couldn’t resist giving her work another go anyway, especially since I was once again intrigued by the blurb. I’m glad I made that decision now, because this story most definitely hit the mark for me.

I’m a fan of the historical fiction genre in general and both the 18th century setting in London and the plot itself were excellently developed in The Lost Orphan. Most historical fiction stories I’ve had the chance to read are set in Victorian London, so it was a nice change of scenery to go back one more century and get a proper glimpse of the 18th century. The descriptions and development of the setting are extensive and really set the right tone for the rest of the story. The story behind the The Foundling hospital and poor women giving up their babies is a tragic one… And Stacey Halls definitely raised an interesting question: in an era where the poor are mostly illiterate, how can the women be certain to ever see their babies again if they want to reclaim them, even if they have a token? This question is the base of the plot of this story, and it was intriguing to see it developed and have both sides of the story explained.

The Lost Orphan uses two different POVs, and this way we get to see both sides of London society as well as both sides of the story of the missing baby. Bess (Eliza) represents the poor and is the one who was forced to give up her baby six years ago as she wasn’t married and the baby’s father was dead. Alexandra represents the wealthy and shows us a widow with mental health issues (including a form of agoraphobia and OCD) trying to raise her only child. The story switches between the two women to help us show both their stories and give us a glimpse of how both the poor and rich lived back then.Their lives meet when Eliza starts working as a nursemaid for Alexandra’s daughter Charlotte… And although the truth about the situation can be guessed easily, the development of both characters, their background and reasons to do what they do really enhanced the story for me. The Lost Orphan is mostly character-driven and focuses on character development and growth rather than including a lot of action… Although the chapters involving Bess (Eliza) are a lot more lively.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but what I can say is that if you enjoy well written historical fiction with thoroughly developed and basically flawed characters as well as a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Lost Orphan or The Foundling is an excellent choice.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #154 – Love And Other Words & The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while… And both Love And Other Words and The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry turned out to be excellent reads.


Title: Love And Other Words
Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 10th 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: March 16th 2020
Pages: 433

“It never occurred to me that love could be anything other than all-consuming. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted anything less.”


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I think most of you will probably know by now that contemporary romance and me don’t really tend to get along, but there are a select few authors that can make me enjoy the genre. I guess I can now add the Christina Lauren duo to that list too! My first experience with their work back in January, The Unhoneymooners, was a success and I had the exact same result with Love And Other Words. Despite the sexy scenes definitely not being for me, I fell in love with the characters and their story… The writing style made it really easy to keep turning those pages, and I like how the story switches back and forward between then and now, slowly letting you get to know the current and past Macey and Elliot. The question of what happened between them to cause such a rupture all those years ago added a level of intrigue to the story, and while the final reveal was a bit of an anticlimax for me mostly, I think the development of the plot and characters in general was well handled. I loved both characters as well as the bookish elements in the story… Sexy scenes and love triangle aside, I think this might be a new favorite Christina Lauren, and that is 100% thanks to both the characters and the writing in general. Fans of the genre will without doubt adore this book!


Title: The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 1st 2014
Publisher:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Finished reading: March 23rd 2020
Pages: 320

“We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.”


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I’ve had The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry on my radar for a long time now, and I even bought a physical copy last year in the hope I would actually pick it up sooner. I guess that didn’t happen, and I’m definitely kicking myself now because I have found myself a new favorite nowI love bookish books and this story is without doubt filled to the brim with most wonderful bookish references. And that is not the only bookish thing about this book: most of the story takes place in a bookstore and we have a bookstore owner and publisher sales rep in the spotlight as two of the important characters. Talk about heaven if you love bookish books! The writing is wonderful and I really liked the plot and plot development as well. The main focus is on bookstore owner A.J. Fikry of course, and it is his quirky and grumpy personality as well as his personal development that really make this story special for me. The characters in general are so easy to like and my heart ached for them as the story continued… Sad moments are combined with more happy ones, and The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry will most definitely play with your emotions. It’s a story that will stay with me for quite some time, and I already know I will want to reread it in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: The Secret Admirer – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Secret Admirer
(Detective Natalie Ward #6)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: April 2nd 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: March 10th 2020
Pages: 413

“I can see right through you because we are the same. We’re not what the world sees.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been a fan of Carol Wyer‘s detective thrillers for a few years now, and I’m always looking forward to new titles. I’ve been following Natalie Ward ever since the first book came out back in 2018, and book number six is without doubt another shocking and more than solid ride. Just the dose of detective thrilller I needed! Technically you can read The Secret Admirer as a stand-alone, but you will be missing out on a lot of background information about the main characters and you might not get the full experience if you don’t read the previous books first… Especially since book six is another one that focuses on developments Natalie Ward’s private life as well as a new investigation. Plus, if you are a fan of the genre in the first place, you will be missing out on hours of detective entertainment!

I’m going to keep things short to avoid spoilers, but those who’ve read the previous books will know what I mean when I say that book number five had the most shocking ending I still can’t believe actually happened. I’ve been dying to start The Secret Admirer to learn about how things would continue afterwards, and this story definitely delivers when it comes to further development of Natalie’s personal life. The bigger focus on her private life was more than needed after that nuclear plot twist bomb in the previous book, and while it does give the story a different vibe, I was personally more than satisfied with this new balance. The investigation in The Secret Admirer is intriguing, although I do have to admit I saw the ending coming early on… But the developments in Natalie’s private life were less easy to guess.

The writing makes it really easy to keep turning those pages, and while the pace might be a tad slower in the beginning, things will get more intense as the investigation gets more complicated. Secrets, twists, manipulation, abuse, addiction… Why was Gemma attacked and who was behind it? What are the people close to her hiding? Things take a personal turn after new development, and while I did see the final reveals involving the investigation coming, I was completely flabbergasted by the developments in Natalie’s private life. Prepare yourself for another shocker, as things won’t be easy for her in book number six either! That said, I do have to say that I will never like David as a character and even the events in The Secret Admirer weren’t enough to make me feel sympathetic towards him… Call me coldhearted, but it is what it is I guess. I did enjoy seeing the development in the other characters involved, and I already can’t wait to discover how things will continue for all the main characters in play in the next book.

This detective thriller series has been highly entertaining and suspenseful from the very first book, and The Secret Admirer is already book number six and no exception to the rule. Both the previous book and this new installment have very shocking developments in store for our main character Natalie Ward; plot twists that will most likely catch you completely unawares. If you enjoy the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this series!


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ARC REVIEW: The Boy From The Woods – by Harlan Coben

Title: The Boy From The Woods
Author: Harlan Coben
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 19th 2020
Publisher: Random House UK/Cornerstone
Finished reading: February 24th 2020
Pages: 384

“Memory makes demands that you often can’t keep. Memory is faulty because it insists on filling in the blanks.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Random House UK/Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess that I would never have guessed my NG request for such a popular title would actually approved… And for a title releasing on my birthday at that! I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of The Boy From The Woods, and I’m definitely happy that I was given the chance to read this newest Harlan Coben story early. It turned out to be such a fascinating and highly entertaining read!

First things first and let’s talk about the plot. If you are a fan of highly dynamic, suspenseful and thrilling stories, you will definitely be in for a treat. While I do confess that certain aspects of the plot might be tad farfetched, if you can get past that certain lack of credibility you will find yourself on a rollercoaster ride with a skyhigh entertainment factor. While the title of this story directly references to one of the main characters, Wilde, the actual plot is mostly focused on Naomi Pine and related events afterwards. It’s a kidnapping story turned conspiracy turned action movie, with plenty of danger, violence as well as a bunch of secrets and plot twists hidden along the way. Highly entertaining without doubt and perfect if you enjoy a good action thriller and don’t mind things getting a little over the top.

The writing is more than solid, and made me remember just how much I enjoyed his writing in the past. I definitely need to give priority to more of his backlist titles this year! Both the writing and pace combined made me simply fly through those pages, and I was able to finish The Boy From The Woods in no time at all. The fact that the events and plot twists constantly increase the level of suspense and only reveal more and more questions as well as dangers only added to that reading speed… And I loved that hint of a conspiracy; it definitely made for an interesting angle even though things can be said about the credibility of it all.

We have quite a big cast of characters in play, although the main focus is mostly on a smaller group of characters which are consequently developed more thoroughly. Especially Wilde, Hester, Naomi and Crash play a big role in the plot, but you will find a variety of different characters playing an important role during the story as well. The most interesting character is probably Wilde though, with his history and him being found all alone in the woods all those years ago. It was intriguing to see what his life is like now and what his connections with the other characters as well as the plot are. Some of the ‘bad guys’ fell a bit flat for me, but I don’t think this had big consequences for the story itself as there were plenty of other elements to keep you satisfied.

I still can’t believe it has been years since I last picked up one of his books, but The Boy From The Woods has definitely brought his work right back on my radar and I will be looking forward to explore more of his work in the upcoming months. This newest title is highly entertaining and the perfect action thriller if you are looking for a thrilling ride!


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Deadly Waters – by OMJ Ryan #damppebblesblogtours #InkubatorBooks @OMJRYAN1 @damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Deadly Waters blog tour! A huge thanks to Emma @ damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I had an excellent time with the first book of this series, Deadly Silence, last year and I’ve been looking forward to see more of Jane Phillips ever since… And it was without doubt a successful second meeting. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!


Title: Deadly Waters
(Detective Jane Phillips #2)
Author: OMJ Ryan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 15th 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: March 1st 2020
Pages: 281

“Often, when we’re stuck, it’s because the eyes and ears will only see and hear what we want them to, whereas the nose – the nose can never hide what it smells.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Inkubator Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I always have a weak spot for a good serial killer thriller…  After an excellent first experience with OMJ Ryan‘s writing in Deadly Silence last year, I’ve been looking forward to meet up with detective Jane Phillips again to help feed my serial killer thriller addiction. As soon as I saw that Deadly Waters was available I knew I just had to make time to read it… And as soon as I read the blurb, my instinct was saying that I was going to be in for another excellent ride. Guess what?! Book number two has once again proven to me that this series is most definitely right up my alley!

While it’s true that I might have liked the first book a tiny bit more, it is also true that I still had a brilliant time reading Deadly Waters. I literally found myself flying through those pages, eager to discover more about the case and wondering if Jane Phillips and her team would be able to catch the killer in time… Like I said with the first book: this series is just so damn readable! The writing makes it very easy to speed through chapter after chapter and you will definitely do yourself a favor if you clear your schedule before you start. Trust me, you don’t want to stop reading once you started reading those first couple of chapters! Deadly Waters is an engaging and suspenseful story that will keep you on your toes; the hint of dark humor lightening up the mood a little at times to keep things balanced.

The plot itself is an intriguing one, as there is no clear murder case to begin with and we only have the hunch of Jane Phillips herself that things might be off. It was interesting to see Jane and her team trying to investigate despite not having the approval of her boss (who is a true bitch by the way), and I liked the way they continued their effort despite encountering setbacks along the way. Plot twists and similar techniques are used to mislead you and send you on the wrong path… While the motive of the murders is easy to guess early on this time around, it is the identity of the killer that remains a mystery for a long time. Trust me, I personally thought I had it all figured out quite early, only to be put in my place and to be left completely flabbergasted afterwards! Oh yes, I never saw that plot twist and ending coming, which was a more than pleasant surprise of course.

Difficult themes as (child)abuse, addiction, drugs and prostitution are incorporated into the plot, but done so in a way to also raise moral questions instead of just simply shocking us readers. Why do people seem to think prostitutes and drug addicts have less rights than others? Just how big are the consequences of the lifestyle choices of both prostitutes and drug addicts in general? Interesting questions with no easy answers, but I always appreciate when stories make you think. As for the characters… Jane Phillips without doubt makes for a very intriguing main character. Things can be said about her being the typical damaged detective lead, but I personally liked her sass and attitude towards the investigation and life in general. The other members of her team were easy to like as well, with the big exception of her boss of course, but I guess she does work perfectly as the ‘enemy’ to be pitted against Jane and her team. The character development in Deadly Waters in general is solid and it was intriguing to discover more about the motive behind the murders as well as the killer.

As you might have guessed, I really enjoyed my time with Deadly Waters and I will already be looking forward to the next book. If you are, like me, a serial killer and detective thriller fan, you should definitely add this series to your wishlist!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards.

In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last. DEADLY WATERS will be his third novel published with Inkubator Books.

SOCIAL MEDIA

TWITTER @OMJRYAN1 // FACEBOOK // INSTAGRAM

Website: https://www.omjryan.com/

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON UK // AMAZON US


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YVO’S SHORTIES #153 – I’ll Be Gone In The Dark & If I Stay

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two backlist titles with a completely different target group and genre, but both I’ve been meaning to read for a while and both were stories I ended up enjoying. The true crime title I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and If I Stay by Gayle Forman.


Title: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara

Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime
First published: February 27th 2018
Publisher: Harper
Finished reading: February 25th 2020
Pages: 340

“If you commit murder and then vanish, what you leave behind isn’t just pain but absence, a supreme blankness that triumphs over everything else.”


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True crime has always intrigued me, so I’m not sure why I don’t pick it up more often… I’ve been meaning to read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara ever since it was first published two years ago, but somehow I just never got to it. I’m happy I finally did pick it up though. I confess I hadn’t heard of the Golden State Killer before, so this book was a true goldmine filled to the brim with information about his crimes and the investigation as it evolved both back in the 1970s and 1980s when they were first investigated as well as the cold case investigation in the 21st century with the help of DNA tests. True crime journalist Michelle McNamara played a big role in the investigation around the identity behind the Golden State Killer and it is sad that her untimely death ment she wasn’t able to see the guy finally get caught in 2018… Still, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark shows just how talented and determined the author was in her investigation and I can imagine just how big of a help she was in uncovering the truth after all that time. The details of the Golden State Killer crimes, both the rapes, home invasions and the murders, are pretty brutal and it’s hard to believe that with so many victims and attacks he was still able to escape justice for this long… I’ll Be Gone In The Dark doesn’t sugarcoat the graphic and gruesome facts, and definitely makes you glad you weren’t living in the areas mentioned back then… Or at least rethink about how terrifying the knowledge that someone dangerous is prowling close to where you live is, and how difficult it would be to defend yourself if he suddenly shows up in your bedroom that way. Definitely not a read for those with a weak stomach, but more than recommended if you are a true crime fan!


Title: If I Stay
(If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 2nd 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: March 3rd 2020
Pages: 196

“He got it before I did. If I stay. If I live. It’s up to me.”


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I’m probably the last person on the planet to read this one! I’ve been meaning to try If I Stay for years now, but to be honest I wasn’t so sure if this story would be for me… I was afraid it was going to be too sappy and cliche for me, and that the hype around it simply wasn’t worth it. I confess I kept my expectations low, and the unexpected happened: I ended up being so much more invested in this story about Mia and Adam than I thought I would be! While I do feel part of the plot is a bit cliche, and especially the flashbacks can be a bit slow, there were also other elements I really loved. The most important of them being just how important music is throughout the story. Both the classical cello and the rock guitar come together beautifully and also represent the different characters in play in If I Stay… Somehow I ended up rooting for Mia and Adam despite the cliches, and I loved the fact that we saw the present story progress from the point of view of Mia’s unconscious self. Definitely an unique angle! The story introduces questions about life and death and it was intriguing to see Mia struggle to decide whether to stay or let go after this tragedy… Cliches and sometimes slow pace aside, I had a great time reading If I Stay and I might even have almost shed a tear or two at some point.


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